If you're like me you love to hike. The challenge is finding the best hikes -- the trails that take you above timberline to turquoise lakes nestled in dramatic cirques, to passes with see forever views and to glorious alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. My opinionated guide helps you find the best hikes in America's top hiking areas.
Southwestern Colorado - One of Colorado's best day hiking areas is the San Juan Mountains around the towns of Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Lake City. The area boasts some of the most spectacular peaks, ridges and glacial valleys in the state. Sixteen peaks tower above 14,000-ft. and literally hundreds rise above 13,000-ft.
Central Colorado - The Sawatch and Elk Mountain ranges around Aspen, Leadville, Buena Vista, Crested Butte and Marble offer the quintessential Rocky Mountain hiking experience with glacial valleys leading to vast alpine expanses sprinkled with glistening lakes amid soaring peaks. Three national forests and six wilderness areas protect this amazing landscape.
California's Southeastern Sierra - Around Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop and Lone Pine, is a hiker’s paradise of rugged peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and gorgeous meadows, crisscrossed by an incredible network of trails traveling through the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas and the backcountry of Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
Glacier National Park will delight hikers with over 700 miles of trails ranging from short nature walks to extended backpacks, traveling through some of the most spectacular and wild country in the Rockies. Some of my favorite trail are located around Logan Pass and the park's east side near Many Glacier, St. Mary and Two Medicine.
The Wind River Range, a backpacker’s paradise, runs for 80 miles along the crest of the Continental Divide in west-central Wyoming. Forty peaks soar over 13,000-ft. and over 100 summits top 12,000-ft. This amazing collection of lofty granite peaks tower above breathtaking alpine meadows and forests studded with over 2,300 lakes and ponds. Reach the western side of this incredible landscape from the Big Sandy, Elkhart Park, New Fork Lakes and Green River Lakes trailheads.
The high desert plateaus of Southeast Utah are carved into a intricate maze of spectacular canyons, arches and spires. Trails in Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and Grand Gulch (Cedar Mesa), along with hikes near Moab, Blanding (Cedar Mesa), Mexican Hat and Bluff travel through this astonishing landscape.
Parks, monuments and BLM lands protect South Central Utah's amazing landscape. Here hikers can wander through the stone forests formed by the pink and white hoodoos at Bryce National Park, spend days roaming the vast and rugged plateaus and multi-hued cliffs of the Grand Staircase and Canyons of the Escalante and explore the hidden treasures of the Waterpocket Fold and Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park.
Switzerland's Valais and Bernese Oberland regions feature spectacular, jaw-dropping scenery. A hiker’s heaven with soaring peaks clad in glistening glacier, verdant meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, charming alpine villages and world class resorts such as Zermatt, Saas Fee and Gindelwald, interlaced with an excellent, well-marked network of trails. An extensive system of lifts, railways and buses facilitate an infinite variety of hiking routes including point-to-point and long distance walks.
Ouray (7,746-ft.) is a pretty little Victorian mountain town in Colorado nestled beneath a dramatic granite amphitheater and surrounded by 12,000-ft. plus peaks. A variety of accommodations and services along with its close proximity to some of the regions great hikes makes the town a perfect base camp for outdoor enthusiasts.
Aspen (7,908-ft.) lies nestled at the head of the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, amid the incredible landscape of the Elk and Sawatch Mountain ranges and surrounded by the White River National Forest. Each summer hikers descend upon the town, attracted to the area's great recreational opportunities and amazing scenery.
Bishop (4,100-ft.) is a small, laid back town along the eastern slopes of California's spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains. Area trails offer access to literally hundreds of thousands of acres of gorgeous lakes, forests and rugged mountains in the Inyo National Forest, John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon backcountry.
Distance: 8.0 - 12.7 miles (Loop)
This is my favorite trail in Telluride featuring great views, two beautiful alpine basins and thigh-high wildflowers from mid-July to early August. Get an early start, take your time and enjoy this varied trail at a leisurely pace. Location: Near Telluride in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 5.0 – 9.6 miles (RT)
Distance: 5.4 - 10.9 miles (Loop)
A long, entertaining circuit through a stunning landscape of sandstone spires, pinnacles, knobs, fins and monoliths surrounding a scenic expanse of desert grassland in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.. Location: Canyonland Natl Park in Southeastern Utah
Distance: 3.4 - 9.2 miles (RT)
This popular trail climbs to a 12,462-ft. pass with breathtaking views of the 14,000-ft. peaks towering above the heart of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Visual delights include two stunning lakes and pretty meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. Location: Near Aspen in Central Colorado
Distance: 13.8 miles (RT)
Alta Peak offers some of the best views in the southern Sierras. From its lofty summit breath-taking vistas extend from the Sierra Crest, the Great Western Divide and the Kaweah Peaks to the foothills of the San Joaquin Valley. Location: Near Lodgepole in California's Southwestern Sierras
Distance: 4.0 – 11.6 miles (RT/Loop)
Distance: 1.6 - 7.7 miles (Loop)
Seven amazing arches set amid a landscape of weird and wonderful sandstone fins, spires and knobs are the rewards for hiking the Devils Garden Trail, my favorite trail in Arches National Park.. Location: Arches Natl Park in Southeast Utah
Distance: 7.8 - 8.2 miles (RT)
This great hike visits two gorgeous lake basins, passing wildflower-filled meadows and numerous waterfalls along the way. A dramatic ridge with towering peaks forms the backdrop for upper Ice Lake, nestled in an alpine wonderland. Location: Near Silverton in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 9.4 miles (RT)
Distance: 7.8 - 13.4 miles (RT)
The jagged spires of the Minarets and two 14er's, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak, form the dramatic backdrop for Ediza Lake, one of the most stunning lakes in the Ritter Range. Location: Near Mammoth Lakes in California's Southeastern Sierras
Distance: 7.8 - 13.4 miles (RT)
This is one of the best hikes in the Bishop area, visiting a series of beautiful lakes nestled in a dramatic basin of 13,000-ft. granite peaks. Location: Near Bishop in California's Southeastern Sierras
Distance: 7.2 miles (Round Trip)
Distance: 7.0 - 9.7 miles (Round Trip)
Grand Gulch is often likened to an open air museum of Ancestral Puebloan ruins and rock art. This trail offers a great introduction to the canyon, visiting Junction Ruin and Turkey Pen Ruin and passing a nice viewpoint for Stimper Arch. Location: Grand Gulch in Southeast Utah
Distance: 6.3 - 11.0 miles (RT)
Popular hike to three scenic lakes nestled in beautiful glacial basins set amid rugged ridges and peaks. Beyond the lakes the trail climbs to a dramatic pass on a ridgeline south of Mt. Sneffels (14,150-ft). Location: Near Ouray in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 7.6 - 11.7 miles (Loop)
One of the top hikes in the Telluride area, this scenic loop traverses the panoramic spine of Blackface Mountain on its way to the base of Lizard Head Peak (13,113-ft.), an eroded 400-ft tall spire shaped like the gaping maw of a lizard. Location: Near Telluride in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 7.0 - 8.9 miles (RT)
Little known hike climbs steeply through forest and alpine meadows to a stunning glacial lake set amid a backdrop of rugged 13,000-ft. peaks. Nearby Columbine Pass offers panoramic views of Bridal Veil basin and the Sneffels Range. Location: Near Silverton in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 3.4 - 13.0 miles (RT)
Imposing peaks, pretty waterfalls, stunning lakes, a huge alpine basin and panoramic views from a 12,500-ft. pass encompassing Treasure Mountain, Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells are the scenic rewards on this 13-mile (RT) hike to West Maroon Pass. Location: Near Aspen in Central Colorado